When you go to as many concerts as I have it’s a relatively difficult to catch me off guard. As I entered Hodi’s Half Note on a cool fall evening in October I was welcomed by the warm embrace of bluegrass lofting over a silent crowd. Colorado is such an amazing hub for live music that many of the regular attendees become blasé and often chat during any given performance. So to enter a normally raucous bar and not hear anyone but the bartender asking, “What’ll you have” and the music from the stage is just something I don’t expect. As I headed toward the front to take a few photos it was immediately evident that this was not a Bisco crowd. The majority of the silent sold out audience were there to see the vibrant Mr. Snider, but they were treated to a powerful send up from the Henhouse Prowlers. This string band continues to teeter on the edge of traditional and rage-grass. Their set began around 8:45 PM as the early arrivers staked out their spots.
They opened with “Silver Eagle” and the game of shuffleboard began. Utilizing a traditional single microphone setup, every show is like a ballet as each member rearranges himself to the mic stand. In recent years, Henhouse Prowlers had to persevere through the theft of all of their band equipment as well as some personnel changes, and they have emerged more focused and cohesive than ever. Ben Wright continues to lead by example through effortless vocals and powerful picking. The newest member Starr Moss has really gelled with the band and doesn’t miss a chance to absolutely shred his guitar. Staples like “Track Song” and “Lonesome Road” dotted their hour-long set. The highlight was their closing Syracuse into Ruby into Syracuse that has become a showstopper for the Prowlers. The Henhouse Prowlers are one of those bands that is often overlooked and with a new album out and their relentless touring its time to spread to good word. If bluegrass is your bag the Prowlers should be in it.
The ever-vigilant crowd allowed themselves to murmur during the set break before Todd Snider appeared from backstage. Snider is like a modern day Dylan and I don’t make that analogy lightly. By appearance he’s all patchwork and floppy hat, but his lyrics belie a deeper spiritual journey. One in which he is not afraid to call out fraud or injustice with his own variety of realism and humor. I first saw Snider working with Leftover Salmon and subsequently Great American Taxi. However this was my first time seeing him in a small room with his dedicated fan base. He opened up with “Play A Train Song” and quickly went into “If Tomorrow Never Comes, a kind of rowdy rollercoaster ride that extrapolates on his Catholic School days. He treated us to his song “Broke;” a humorous indictment of the current economic situation told through the eyes of regular Joe. He did an amazing version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” to round out the first set.
After a short break he returned and continued his bard-like ways. Snider is a storyteller, but that’s only if the audience cooperates. At one point he was ready to break into a tangential story when someone in the attentive audience shouted out. Snider reprimanded him by not telling the anecdote and simply launching into the next song. “Conservative Christian” was an absolute peak for the show, and it should be an anthem for any self-proclaimed hippie. Snider finished around midnight. He is a true teller of tales in every way. He entertains through his docile nature and cutting satire. The way to see Snider is by himself and hopefully with an audience as dedicated as the fans at Hodi’s. All in all it was a very good night for acoustic music.
Avogadro’s Number is a tiny oasis of live music in the sometimes-overwhelming Fort Collins music scene. This venue has been a showcase for acoustic and folk music for a number of years. Off the beaten path of Old Town Avo’s as it’s affectionately called houses a bar, a stage, and a restaurant.
On a cool fall night in October, Avogadro’s opened its stage up to Summer Camp favorites Caravan Of Thieves. Hailing from Connecticut this band had been described as a unique blend of swing, jazz, and high intensity jamming. Fuzz Sangiovanni from Deep Banana Blackout fame along with his wife Carrie Sangiovanni form the foundation of the band with Ben Dean and Brian Anderson filling out the lineup of pickers.
Arriving early I caught the last half of the opening set by The Cantrells. They are a duo from a bygone era with a true gift for the art of performance. The majority of the small but dedicated audience seemed to be there in support of opener. The multi-instrumentalist Cantrells focused on their own style of acoustic swing following a more traditional approach than the headliner. They had a folksy way about them that made you feel like you were at a picnic with your extended family. The only cover they played that I was familiar with was a Leadbelly tune. Overall they were a gentle way to get the night started. They had a passion for swing and string music and seemed to fit the bill nicely.
The Caravan Of Thieves took the stage for their single set that went just over ninety minutes. They opened up with their original “I Don’t Wanna.”
Set 1: I Don’t Wanna, Shim Sham, Psycho Killer, Eat You, Wasting, Monster, F Got You, She’s Learning, Kiss, Dance
Encore: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band> I Get By, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, When I’m 64, Raise The Dead
A very nice set of music with an encore that featured several of the Sgt. Pepper’s tunes they worked out for Halloween. We were also treated to a couple selections including “I Don’t Wanna” and “Monster” off of their new album Funhouse as well. This band is truly mesmerizing in both their delivery and their energy. Fuzz will often swing his guitar to his back, pick up egg beaters, and begin slamming on all manner of plastic jug and metal cymbal. I’ve seen the man even begin banging on his fellow band mates instruments with any substitute for a drumstick he can find.
They managed to work in one of their favorite covers in the form of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as well. They lead the small audience on a musical journey that involved some impeccable picking along with an array of makeshift percussion. Heading out to the bar throughout the night several people who were otherwise engaged in Broncos football would ask, “Who are these guys?” I can only assume that same question was asked by many who have passed by their stage at Summer Camp each year. Who are these guys? The reason is that their sound is wholly unique and quite intoxicating. They warned the crowd earlier about their Halloween extravaganza involving their homage to the Beatles, so it was no surprise that the encore gave us a taste of that forthcoming show. As they do with all of their covers, they incorporate their own instrumentation and styling making each song very different from the original. Their jangly strings treated the Beatles well.
The Caravan Of Thieves closed by coming down to the floor and inviting the crowd up to sing “Raise The Dead.” This intimate affair is exactly what Avo’s has become known for in Fort Collins. It’s a small retreat for music lovers and music makers alike. If you find yourself wandering the outskirts of Old Town and hear some quality picking, chances are you’ve found Avogadro’s Number.
Videos From The Show
On a tour that bounced on and off the summer festival circuit beginning with Summer Camp and ending with an extensive jaunt across the country, Tea Leaf Green continues to spread their music prodigiously. Their set at Summer Camp actually saw a lull in the rain this year, but it soon returned. Often underrated, this five-piece from San Francisco played sans one drummer at the Aggie. I headed down early to see local classics WhiteWater Ramble open. Having watched these guys evolve and transform since my arrival in Colorado it’s good to see them gelling in a live setting. WWR has always been a jamgrass contender, but at times their sound has been inconsistent. Their show at the Aggie was a smooth groove that was highlighted by a number of fun covers. In particular a spaced-out version of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” that was a true mix of psychedelic and string. A pair of Grateful Dead covers came in the form of “Althea” and “The Wheel” as well. WhiteWater Ramble finished up with a sweet take on “Nellie Kane.” This band continues to develop and their local shows always seem to be a blast.
During setbreak I ran into incredible bassist and all around nice guy Reed Mathis just relaxing outside before his set. I talked to Reed about Summer Camp and his extensive touring. Throughout the last 5 months he has hopped from Tea Leaf to Mickey Hart Band shows with several one offs in between. Before we split ways Reed inquired if I had any requests. I simply asked that he, ‘rip it up.’
“I will rip it up, it shall need mending… possibly stitches.” –Mathis
So with that we headed back inside in anticipation of the ripping. The show was on a Wednesday night so the audience numbered only around a couple hundred. This allowed for a very relaxed feel and easy maneuvering. They opted to play one long set rather than split it up. They opened up with “If It Wasn’t For The Money.”
Set 1: If It Wasn’t For The Money, Someday (In The Wake), Penny Saved, One Reason, Space Hero Pt. 3, Space, Hero Pt. 4, Forgiven, Don’t Go, Taught To Be Proud, We Aren’t Done, Franz Hanzerbeak (JoJo), Two Parts, One More Chance, Fallen Angel> Germanating Seed
Encore: Pretty Jane, All Washed Up
This beefy set from Tea Leaf Green featured classics as well as several newer tracks. Musically they are playing in lockstep. I was a little bummed they were performing without their other drummer, but considering their length of time on the road it’s understandable. Trevor Gerrod continues to be the consummate performer utilizing both his skills at the keys as well as the microphone intrepidly. The “Space Hero” duo was a real highlight. Reed was a true focal point for the duration of the show. There is something incredible about watching someone who is truly skilled at a craft. For Mathis that craft is face melting bass shredding. Tea Leaf closed out the set with a pair from their second album Radio Tragedy!; “Fallen Angel” into “Germanating Seed” was a real treat. I still believe that Tea Leaf Green is a top-level jam band with the potential to give a huge performance on any given night. Their show at the Aggie again proved that hypothesis. They have musically and stylistically evolved into a true road-worn rock band, but their live shows demonstrate an amazing ability to improvise and harmonize sonically. They encored with a “Pretty Jane” into “All Washed Up.” If you’ve let Tea Leaf Green fall off your radar, revisit them post haste. They are still doing it right.
The Werks have played their fair share of sets at Summer Camp. However this was my first time catching them live. So I hustled down to see them in Old Town. Howerver arriving at 9:30 PM meant that by the time I grabbed my first beer, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong were exiting stage left. What I heard sounded like a promising blend of electronic, funk, and jam. Forming in 2009 and averaging over a hundred shows a year this four piece has a lot of potential. In fact all three bands on the bill were four man outfits that have developed their own brand of improvised composition. Some have pontificated that we are in a post jam era where the music has become split by genre and focus. However when I witness performances like what I saw from both Twiddle and The Werks, my faith is jam is somewhat restored.
Now Twiddle has not performed at Summer Camp, but they would be a fine additon to next year’s lineup. The band came on after a short set break and kept the night moving smoothly. It was homecoming weekend at Colorado State and there was an abundance of youth in attendance. It seemed like Twiddle had gained a few fans from their performance at Arise Music & Arts Festival in Loveland, CO mid August. They are an impressive unit who finally seems to really be branching out beyond their Vermont roots. Much of the basis of their music comes from the school that Phish built. Beyond that they have a drive and musical prowess that absolutely makes an impact. Deep intrepid jams highlighted this set that culminated with a huge psychedelic style trance jam. As this is just my second time seeing them I am still unfamiliar with their songs. What I can say is that Twiddle can play, and they have a genuine enthusiasm about performing together. Their set at the Aggie seemed to end far too quickly.
Again after a short set change The Werks emerged for their extended headlining slot. They opened with “O.G.”
Set 1: O.G., Heading South, Light, BG, Duck Farm, Hard To Find, Moetry, G Funk, 2001> No Diggity> 2001
Encore: Killing In The Name Of
I’m unsure how many can relate but at times with different bands no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to make seeing them life happen. The Werks has been one of those bands for me. I have listened to their recordings for a number of years but despite my best efforts failed to see them play live. That is until now. The Werks began performing together in 2004 and released their first album in 2007. Since then they have been touring across the country with several stops at top festivals like All Good and Wakarusa. They currently host their own yearly event called The Werk Out Music Festival. Their show at the Aggie much like their opener Twiddle was first-rate.
They started the show by delving into a wide variety of their catalog. Slicing through musical styles like instrumental ninjas The Werks demonstrated why they are so revered. Songs like “Duck Farm” and “Moetry” punctuated a fantastic set of songs. . They closed with their version of Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” split by a bridge in the form of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” The crowd went absolutely nuts. However The Werks came back to the stage to drop an even heavier encore. They covered Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.” Stoic keyboardist Norman Dimitrouleas took the microphone for this spot on rendition that left fans mesmerized. I have to say it was a fun night out. With a bill that consisted of names like The Werks and Twiddle it would be easy to overlook this Friday night but that would have been a mistake. One I’m thankful I didn’t make. Both of these bands deserver your attention, so take a deeper look. Apparently in some corners of the country jam is alive and well.
Virtuoso bassist Les Claypool is a musical shape shifter. He often leaves the comfy confines of Primus to venture out on some melodious adventure. I’ve seen his many projects and they vary from full-fledged percussive groups focused on instrumental composition to an assemblage of a reptilian task force for all sorts of mayhem. His most recent project is a stripped down situation that goes by the name of Duo De Twang. He has had a number of solo sets over the years at Summer Camp and most recently played with all of Primus in 2012.
Duo De Twang was originally formed with Marc Haggard from San Francisco alt-rock group M.I.R.V. This tour featured Bryan Kehoe on guitar also from M.I.R.V. They invited the Reformed Whores on the road with them for the duration of their tour. These two ladies have no issue discussing all manner of bodily function and otherwise unspeakable points of view through the wonder and beauty of song. In fact if you weren’t paying attention to the lyrics it would easily sound like the background music at a church picnic.
As I arrived the Reformed Whores were already on stage spreading their brand of irreverent humor. Their delivery was pure deadpan and chocked full of a humorous sanguinity. As performers they utilized the bare minimum of instrumentation, with just a ukulele and an accordion the Reformed Whores weave rich and delightful musical tapestries. Singing about the necessity for women to move their bowels, taint waxing, and about the importance of birth control are all par for the course. Really they sing public service announcements. They closed their set with “Girls Poop Too.”
I can only describe the fans in the front few rows as dedicated. Some were parked there hours prior to the start of the opener. It was finally time for the main event. Claypool and Kehoe officially took the stage soon after the Reformed Whores. Their modest setup was complete with a small electric bonfire and a couple of chairs. Claypool had stated that this was going to be a low-key affair with lots of booze laced tangents and random stories for the eager crowd. Claypool is playing on a resonator bass that he has taken to calling the “dobro bass,” which makes sense in both sound and feel. Kehoe stuck to the guitar alternating between slide and flat-picking. They played one long set that was spiced with a good amount of fan interaction. They opened with a truly twang-y “Booneville Stomp.” After their first song Kehoe let out a note like a Tuvan throat singer and Claypool said this about him.
“We call him the mighty throat of doom and sodomy.” –Les Claypool
It was this type of silly banter that Claypool seemed to thrive on between sips and songs at the Aggie. Classic Primus tunes like “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” dotted the set to the glee of the audience. By this point the room was borderline sold out with people taking up every nook and cranny. I found myself in the back and to the right along the wall after I was done taking photos. Musically it was just fun. It was like watching Claypool on MTV Unplugged. At one point the audience began chanting ‘Primus Sucks’ and Claypool commented, “I didn’t think there were be a lot of Primus fans here tonight.” Towards the end Claypool invited a local guitarist named Robert up to stage to play with the Duo De Twang. First of all that’s awesome, Claypool inviting any musician onstage to perform with him would undoubtedly be a high point in their life. Robert was no Jimi Hendrix, but he did fine and Claypool used a few stops to play the bandleader and crack a few jokes. So it was okay for the crowd, but obviously awesome for Robert. After a very quick ninety minutes their set was over and they both stepped off the stage before quickly returning for their encore. They nailed a stringed version of “Staying Alive” that seemed to really pump up the energy in the crowd.
“That’s not a Bee Gees song, I wrote that fucking tune.” –Les Claypool
They closed the show with Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” that featured a small “Tommy The Cat” tease. This was just a great night to have a drink with Mr. Claypool. The relaxed vibe focused on interaction and imbibing more than shredding and face melting. That’s not to say anything was lacking musically. Quite the contrary, the combination of Claypool and Kehoe is magical. They create a wall of sound with just a handful of strings. I would highly recommend if the Duo De Twang comes to your town, go have a drink with the Colonel.
Everyone Orchestra travels the country bringing one-time only musical experiences to the masses. They are a tradition at Summer Camp as part of the Make A Difference events at Summer Camp. If you don’t know what that is, look in your program and get involved. or check here.
From the mind of Matt Butler lineups are assembled and during his shows he creates themes and tangents for the band to follow. Everyone Orchestra scheduled a three-night romp through Colorado that included stops in Gunnison as well as Denver, but they began with a night at Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins. The lineup was made up of Matt Butler conducting, Dave Watts on drums, Steve Kimock on guitar, Anders Beck on dobro, Jans Ingber on percussion and vocals, Kai Eckhardt on bass, and for one night only Bridget Law on violin. This power packed group was certainly enough to create an amazing musical experience, but first up was Marcellus Wallace.
Marcellus Wallace is a soul, funk, rock, adventure lead by singer Devon Parker of The Nu Classics. They came out strong mesmerizing the crowd with their blend of brass and soulfunk. It was almost a throw back to an earlier R&B sound, with more than one attendee asking, “What does Marcellus Wallace look like?” With originals like “Lover” their vibe is certainly intriguing if not infectious. The highlight of the show was a sit-in by Jans Ingber on John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” If you dig a retro sound foul of soulful nuance I would recommend checking out Marcellus Wallace and finding out what he looks like for yourself.
Everyone Orchestra took us on a two set journey through rock, jam, jazz, folk, and a little bit of bluegrass thrown in for good measure. With Bridget Law only hopping on for one show of the run she was truly a featured artist. With his small dry erase board Butler wrote down things like “Ya” and “4/4 Rock Beat” during which he took to some improv on the microphone. The first set went quick going just over an hour, but the second set was a 90-minute jam that went almost to bar close. The crowd at Hodi’s again was light making for easy maneuvering but a little disappointment on my part. As I stated in my review from the week prior of Euforquestra, this is a funny time for venues in college towns. The kids are taking finals, graduating, packing up, and moving out. This makes for somewhat spotty attendance for any show. If Everyone Orchestra had scheduled this performance a month ago, I have no doubt that it would have sold out. Jans Ingber alternated between singing a few tunes and ripping it up on the congas. One of the jams featured Kai Eckhardt who I have not had the pleasure of seeing live since his days with Garage Mahal. He is as agile on the bass as ever and his harmonious notes were truly a pleasure. Kimock was great without overpowering the lineup. I’ve seen him with EO before and he honestly knows how to perform in a group dynamic. This night was no exception. Everyone Orchestra is always a treat and if you are truly a fan of the jam they are worth any amount of effort to catch them live. Butler never disappoints when choosing a lineup and they are always unique. With their upcoming show for Make a Difference at Summer Camp it might have been easy to let this one slide by, but I’m so glad I didn’t.
Euforquestra has traveled through the murky waters of change and emerged triumphant and unscathed. Musically, the adversity of loosing a founding member could be enough to rock the very foundation on which any band is built. This is not the case with Euforquestra. They continue to tour relentlessly and are currently celebrating their tenth year on the road. The one two punch of Craig Babineau on drums and Scott Mast on percussion have become the new foundation on which Euforquestra is plowing ahead. Both have rock solid licks reminiscent of the Joimoe/Trucks combo when they push past the Southern Rock and into the World Funk. Matt Wright on keys has truly stepped up and has wholeheartedly embraced playing the front man singing with a silky demeanor that really pleases. With Jeter recently becoming a father, his time on stage has been limited, which means there have been a number of local players who have sat in on second sax. This has allowed for a freshness to seep into their overall sound and it leaves room for the unexpected. One unexpected turn was their headlining set at Hodi’s Half Note.
It has been two years since their last rendezvous at this Fort Collins establishment. With headlining gigs at the Aggie and all around Colorado it was a real treat to see them playing a smaller room. The night began with Rudie Clash, a Dubskin side project featuring lead singer Jamal Skinner and keyboardist Jason Wieseler in a strange amalgamation of roots reggae and dub sonic sounds… but we’ll get to that in a minute. I arrived as Jet Edison was hitting the stage with their original “Gold.”
Set I: Gold, Places, Style Of The Times, Wasted, Simon, Wading Through The Rubble, Burn This Disco Out*, Undercover
*w/ Austin Zaletel on Sax
This tight four-piece from Boulder knows how to rock. Lead by keyboardist Phil Johnson who will occasionally pull out a trumpet too. They are a convincing jam powerhouse to say the least. With a new album due out this year, they have plenty to prove. Touring with enthusiasm, it’s impossible to go more than a couple months without catching them live here in Colorado. These four formed a bond in college through late night jam sessions and lots of time on the road. That bond is evident in their transitions and in songs like “Wading Through The Rubble,” which takes on a driving swing feel as they navigate the debris. They tossed it back with a version of Michael Jackson’s “Burn This Disco Out,” with Austin Zaletel sitting in on sax before ending the show with “Undercover.”
The setbreak was filled in with self-proclaimed “ugly” music producers Rudie Clash consisting of Jamal and Jason from Dubskin. They too are on the cusp of releasing a new album and have developed a wholly unique sound. To say that I enjoyed it as much as seeing Dubskin would be an untruth. Jamal is a true showman and will always engage his audience with his bombastic style. That being said this blend of electronic dub and his vocals was a bit jarring. If you are a fan of roots reggae blend and electronica I would recommend you check them out.
As Euforquestra took the stage I found myself wondering why the room was only half full. With finals approaching and many students getting ready to head home for the summer perhaps they just opted out of going. This was the wrong choice. What followed was a two-hour blast through all the things that make me love this band. Opening with “Backbone” Euforquestra started the night like a freight train.
Set 1: Backbone, Cause A Reaction, Milk & Honey, Obatala, Called You, Yogi’s Day Out, The Events of December 11, Solutions*, Madison Square**, Nausea, 64:18, Price Is Right, Instant Coffee, Dr. Standby
Encore: All Light, Hang Ups
*w/ Jamal Skinner on Vocals
**w/ Phil Johnson on Trumpet and Nick on Saxophone
This was a hometown show with the warm feel of a family throw down. Huge versions of “Cause A Reaction” and “Obatala” got the show moving. They pulled out a classic Euforquestra tune “Called You,” which was originally sung by Matt Grundstad and is now crooned by keyboardist Matt Wright. Wright’s vocals can simply be described as clean. He just nails it. “Yogi’s Day Out” was a blast, but “December 11” really sucked in the crowd. They brought out Jamal to sing on “Solutions” before inviting Phil and Nick to fill out the horn section on the instrumental cover of “Madison Square.” They rounded out an epic set with a 1-2-3 punch or originals culminating with an immense set-closing “Dr. Standby.” This show had everything a music fan could want. Hard hitting percussion backing a world approach to music that has been the hallmark of Euforquestra since the beginning. They closed with a two-song encore that included a great version of “Hang Ups.” Through thick and thin Euforquestra perseveres and continues to create amazing music and incredible live performances across the country. The next time they come to your town get out and make sure you bring your dancing shoes.
Sometimes things happen. To the dismay of fans that traveled over a thousand miles to see their hometown favorites Old Shoe in Colorado, their first show of the run at Hodi’s Halfnote was postponed. A combination of three days of blizzard and cancelled flights contributed to the decision, but people were certainly disappointed. Personally I had been looking forward to the show for months, and given their place as renowned Summer Camp alumni, I was excited to see them live. CIT Dave Weckstein was traveling with the band and I met him early for some dinner and a beer. We were just finishing up when Hodi’s posted that they would not be having the show. I was baffled because the three days of blizzard had finally subsided and the sun was actually out. Understanding that they had many friends in town Old Shoe arranged to play in their hotel lobby at Cambria Suites at 10 PM. Word spread fast and as Dave put it, it was time for a “Party at the Moontower.” So feeling it was appropriate I donned my pajamas and headed down. The 3-piece consisted of Greg Fundis, Joe Day, and Matt Robinson. The lobby was an unassuming place for the random assemblage of Shoe fans that filtered in. They had a nicely stocked bar and I have to believe that the hotel sold more drinks than they ever had with about twenty or so fans refilling regularly. They opened with an acoustic jam on “Loco Motive.”
Acoustic: Loco Motive, Dust Bowl, Take That Road, How Mountain Girls Can Love
Electric: Day Rains Night, Family
For those that are unfamiliar, Old Shoe is an up and coming acoustic tinged jam band. They can pretty much do it all and they are a tight group with lots of talent. After the first song they slid their chairs up to be closer to the fans scattered on couches and chair throughout the lobby. The highlight was their take on The Stanley Brothers’ “How Mountain Girls Can Love.” The boys moved back to the electric set up and ripped through a couple more originals before we were told it was all over. With the hotel at 95% occupancy the sound had drifted up a couple floors and some of the patrons were none too happy. So after an awesome version of “Night Family.” The hotel asked them to stop. What did we expect really? I think the fact that Old Shoe even attempted this says a lot about their character and their dedication to their fans. I certainly appreciated it and it proves to me how special it is to live in Colorado where music seems to always find a way… for a little while at the least.
Leftover Salmon is a Colorado tradition. They are the source from which so much jam and bluegrass flows. String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, and so many others would not be what they are today if it wasn’t for the trail blazed by Salmon on a cold night in Crested Butte over twenty years ago. After an incredible set at Summer Camp i figured it was time for an update from the mountain state. Leftover has gone through some transitions through the years. The passing of Mark Vann, the departure of Jeff Sipe and Bill McKay, the search for formidable replacement on banjo that ended with Andy Thorn have all had an effect on the band. They have persevered and their music is as vibrant as ever.
Their show at The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins was completely sold out meaning tight quarters were the order of the night. I staked my spot Vince side on the rail. They took the stage just before 10 PM with a quick “Liza.”
Set I: Liza, Gulf Of Mexico, Voodoo Queen Marie, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Gold Hill Line, Sing Up To The Moon, Morning Sun, Highway Song, BooBoo*, You Can Find Some Other Man, Lonesome Johnny Blues**, Danger Man**
Set II: Gonna Have A Party, Here Comes The Night, Walking Shoes, Bend In The River, Light Behind The Rain, Riding On The L & N, The Other Side, Mr. Wrong**, Come On Baby**, Out In The Woods**, Railroad Blues**, River’s Rising
*W/ Friends on Drums
**W/ Johnny Hickman on Guitar, Harmonica, and Vocals
Big thanks to Rob O’Brien for taping and posting on Archive. http://archive.org/details/los2013-04-13.24bit
This show was a non-stop shredfest that showcased the new era of Leftover Salmon. The setlist is a mix of fresh and classic with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. “Gulf Of Mexico,” which is basically an indictment of BP and the devastation they caused to the costal waters, was a nice touch. Their Zydeco was showing with “Voodoo Queen Marie,” but it was “Aquatic Hitchhiker” that made jaws drop. This instrumental song built so beautifully, relying heavily on Andy Thorn’s banjo. Andy really has revitalized this band in a big way and continues to keep the energy at peak level. “Gold Hill Line” was a quick, but passionate version with Drew on vocals before they invited a few friends to help with percussion on “BooBoo. “You Can Find Some Other Man” kept up their breakneck pace before they called their old friend Johnny Hickman to the stage. Hickman is from the alternative rock group Cracker and he along with David Lowery recorded bluegrass versions of their songs with Leftover Salmon performing as the backing band. The result was an album entitled O Cracker Where Art Thou?. Hickman is an accomplished guitarist with a rowdy, bluesy feel to his style. Much like what Bill McKay brought to the table, Hickman transformed Leftover Salmon into a rocking bar band. They blasted through two Cracker tunes, “Lonesome Johnny Blues” and “Danger Man” before taking a short set break.
Thirty minutes later the band and opened up round two with “Gonna Have A Party.” We were treated to a subtly stunning “Here Comes The Night,” before coming back to one of their newer songs, “Walking Shoes.” There seems to be a more tuned in consciousness in their lyrics than some of their early work. There is a maturity that only comes with being on the road for two decades and it is seeping into everything they do. Drew busted out his fiddle for “Bend In The River,” which is always a treat, but the highlight of the show was the Andy Thorn sung “Light Behind The Rain.” They slamgrassed us with “Riding On The L & N,” before Drew’ mandolin took the driver’s seat with the Salmon classic “The Other Side.” They invited Hickman back to the stage for a four-song run of both Cracker and Salmon tunes that left fans happy. The version of “Out In The Woods” was yet another highlight in show filled to the brim with high points. They closed the set with an absolute barnburner rendition of “River’s Rising” that showcased the evocative vocals of Mr. Emmitt. There is something about his voice that stays with you long after the amps have been put away for the night.
Leftover Salmon came back to the stage with a quick “Euphoria” and as quickly as it started it was over. This is the type of show that leaves you all bubbles and sunshine. The rain had begun to drizzle as the capacity crowd filtered out into the night. Exhausted smiles dotted the faces of the people as they wiped the sweat from their brows. It was a good night of Salmon and an energizing way to spend a Saturday evening in Fort Collins. For a band that has been on the road for so long it would be easy for them to become blasé as well. However LoS is always innovating, inviting guests, and generally leaving it all out on every stage they play. This a new dawn for this band and I for one am happy to be witnessing their rebirth.
There can be nothing more disheartening for a touring band than to show up and see a crowd of nine people is the total of your audience. This is exactly what happened at The Aggie for Moksha’s headlining gig. Touring with an amazing guest horn section consisting of Skerik, Peter Apfelbaum, and longtime Summer Camp alumni Jennifer Hartswick, the lack of people seemed even more tragic. I arrived early with a few friends and we were immediately confronted with the sweet reggae fusion sounds of Funkmaster.
Funkmaster aka Matt Grundstad, moved to Colorado with world music ensemble and Summer Campers, Euforquestra. They have since parted ways, giving Matt more time to focus on studio collaborations, performing with Dubskin, and his solo work. The Funkmaster setup has been a long time in the making. I first saw him utilize his muliti-instrumentalism along with a looping board all the way back in college. Needless to say the show has progressed immensely into a polished set of music that demonstrates not only his musicianship and vocal ability, but his knowledge of song craft and playing to an audience. Even if that audience is only a few hearty souls. He got our attention with a spot on version of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” built from the ground up. The highlight of his set was a massive mashup of Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, Parliament Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove” and “The Thong Song” among others. He ended his set with a nod to Toots and The Maytals who were just at The Aggie by playing “Bam Bam.” Toots will be as Summer Camp with is trio this year, so don’t miss that.
Up to the stage next was Smooth Money Gesture who jumped on Moshka’s run for their last two nights in Colorado. Smooth Money has been MIA as of late so it was nice to see them back on a bill in Fort Collins. SMG is quintessential Nederland jam with a touch of funk and rock influences. Smooth Money played a set that was just short of an hour, but they sounded fresh, considering they have been on a mini-hiatus for the last few months. They are back playing locally and are definitely worth checking out.
Moksha came to the stage and despite the lack of an audience ripped through an hour and a half of the funky jam.
Set 1: BNJ, Blind, Seed, Bobbin, Sexy M.F., Bathcat, Gettin, Awaken, Rite Away, Island, You Haven’t Done Shit
Although they cut their headlining set short, they can’t really be blamed. Musically they took us on a sweet ride, that actually left me wanting more. They had a strong focus musically, and the horns only added to the overall quality of the performance. Peter Apfelbaum is a jazz savant who can literally play anything, Skerik is a machine, and Jennifer Hartswick is the one-two punch of powerful trumpet and beautiful vocals. My one complaint is that these three seemed almost pushed to the back of the stage, and did not seemed to be featured on solos as much as I would have liked. Either way it was amazing to see these three with Moksha as they plowed through a wide array of their originals. The highlight of the show was the set closing Hartswick sung, “You Haven’t Done Shit.” It may have been somewhat disappointing for the band, but I have to say I was not let down. This ended up being a private show for me and a few other lucky individuals who made it down. You can literally hear the absence of people in the videos I shot, making for a surreal experience. That being said, I had a blast and will definitely be waiting for the return of Moksha.